Finders, keepers? Not in California, where Penal Code Section 484-502.9 specifically states that keeping lost property if you have knowledge of its true owner is a crime. The code outlines a long list of specific offenses involving fraud and deception. Consider the following examples:
- defrauding a person of labor
- using a false reference to get credit
- identity theft
- credit card forgery
- hiring employees without informing them of unpaid labor judgments
- failure to return rented or borrowed equipment or property (if the owner of the property does not demand its return within a certain time period, this does not apply)
- renting property under a false name
- pawning goods under a false name
- a general contractor’s failure to use receipts to pay subcontractors
- using a stolen credit card, bank card, or credit card number
- selling or publishing stolen credit card numbers
- counterfeiting documents
- knowingly accepting a stolen credit card
- failure to attempt to return found property
Statute of limitations for fraud crimes
Theft crime involving fraud or deception can be charged as committed on any date during the entire period of a scam, effectively extending the statute of limitations for theft by the length of the deception.
Penalties for fraud, forgery, identity theft and other deceptions
In California, a sentence for a theft crime may include jail or prison time, restitution, and a fine (up to $10,000.) Sentencing limits are determined by the classification of the offense as grand theft or petty theft, charging a wobbler crime as a felony or misdemeanor, the value of the property or services taken, by circumstances surrounding the crime, and prior convictions of the defendant.
Fraud and deception defense
Sentencing limits for a fraud or theft crime are determined by the level of charges brought by the prosecutor. Therefore, when representing a client charged with fraud, a defense attorney will begin by working to have charges dropped or reduced to the lowest level possible.
In this pre-trial phase of defense, the lawyer will challenge inflated representations of the value of the taken goods or service. Other issues the attorney will consider are whether the facts surrounding the charge have been misrepresented, and whether the defendant actually intended to commit fraud during the transaction.
In a case where the defendant is convicted, the defense attorney will work for the best outcome possible during the sentencing phase.